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Congo (Kinshasa): War Goes On, Little Pressure for Peace

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Oct 11, 2008 (081011)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

The war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, site of the United Nations' largest peacekeeping operation, attracts little attention from the world's media. Conditions vary from place to place in that vast country. But violence continues at high levels in parts of the country, particularly North Kivu, and efforts to rebuild functional state security and oversight over the economy still face enormous obstacles.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains excerpts from a recent report from Amnesty International, focusing on the continuing crisis of war-related rape and violence against women and children in North Kivu. The Bulletin also includes links to other recent reports touching on issues of security, displacement, and accountability in the mining and logging industries.

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as links to additional background and current news, visit http://www.africafocus.org/country/congokin.php

For updates on United Nations operations in the DRC and related news, in French and English, see http://www.monuc.org

For a selection of books with background on the past and present of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, visit
http://www.africafocus.org/books/afbooks.php#conk1 or http://www.africafocus.org/books/afbooks_uk.php#conk1

Two that cover events in recent years, up to 2007, are The Congo Wars: Conflict, Myth and Reality (http://www.africafocus.org/books/isbn.php?1842776894) and The Congo: Plunder and Resistance (http://www.africafocus.org/books/isbn.php?1842774859), both published by Zed Books.

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Many thanks to those subscribers who have recently sent in a voluntary subscription payment to support AfricaFocus Bulletin. If you haven't yet sent in such a payment and are able to do so, please help AfricaFocus continue to provide reliable information on Africa. Pay on-line with Paypal or Google checkout at http://www.africafocus.org/support.php, or send a check made out to AfricaFocus Bulletin to
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North Kivu: No End to the War Against Women and Children

Amnesty International

AI Index: AFR 62/005/2008

September 29, 2008

[Excerpts: For a press release and the full report, see http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AFR62/013/2005]

Introduction

Months after a peace agreement to end conflict in North Kivu province, eastern DRC, civilians are still being killed, raped, abducted and tortured by armed group and government forces.

Amnesty International has found substantial evidence that armed groups in North Kivu have continued to commit crimes under international law, including unlawful killings, rape, torture, and the recruitment and use of child soldiers, even after the armed groups promised to immediately end these abuses in a 23 January 2008 "Act of Engagement". Government security forces have also unlawfully detained and in some cases tortured and ill-treated captured children, and continue to rape and sexually abuse women and girls.

Amnesty International welcomes the intensive national and international efforts that have been made to resolve the armed conflict in North Kivu, in particular the establishment of the Amani Programme for the security, pacification, stabilization and reconstruction of the Kivu provinces. If the peace process is to remain credible, however, human rights abuses committed by both state and non-state actors must end.

...

This report is based on eyewitness testimony collected in the province of North Kivu during February and March 2008.

Background

In August 2007 armed conflict erupted in the province of North Kivu. The renewed fighting, the worst since the official end of the DRC conflict in 2003, pitted the regular Congolese army (FARDC) against the CNDP armed political group, under the command of renegade general Laurent Nkunda. Also involved were mayi-mayi ethnic militia opposed to the CNDP, and the Rwandan FDLR, a mainly Rwandan Hutu armed insurgent group which contains remnants of forces allegedly responsible for the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The United Nations (UN) peace-keeping force in the DRC, MONUC, was unable to contain the fighting and at its height could only assure the security of major population centres. ...

Civilians bore the brunt of the violence, which was marked by serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law by both the armed groups and government armed forces and which triggered a desperate humanitarian crisis. By the end of 2007, more than 500,000 people had fled their homes and sought shelter with host families or in camps for the internally displaced that sprang up across the province. The humanitarian and security situation in many sites, many of which are located close to military positions, is extremely poor.

The escalating violence in North Kivu, which again threatened regional stability, led to concerted international efforts to resolve the crisis. In November 2007, the governments of the DRC and Rwanda agreed, in the "Nairobi communiqu‚", to take joint measures to dismantle the FDLR. ... The Nairobi agreement was mediated by the UN, the African Union (AU), the European Union (EU) and the United States (US), and was followed in March 2008 by UN Security Council Resolution 1804, which demanded that the FDLR immediately lay down their arms and submit to repatriation to Rwanda.

In January 2008, after the failure of a government military offensive against the CNDP, a Conference on Peace, Security and Development for the Kivus was organized in Goma, the capital of North Kivu. The conference, which was again facilitated by representatives of the US, AU and EU, brought together representatives of the DRC government, the CNDP, PARECO and other Congolese armed groups (the FDLR was not invited to the conference) and Kivu civil society. The negotiations led to an "Act of Engagement" signed on 23 January by Congolese armed groups in the Kivus, including the CNDP and PARECO, in which they committed to an immediate cease-fire, to the progressive demobilisation of their forces, and to an immediate halt to violations of international humanitarian law, including "acts of violence... of all forms against the civilian population, particularly women and children..." ...

The Peace Conference also led to the creation of an ambitious government-led programme, known as the Amani Programme, for security, pacification, stabilization and reconstruction of the Kivus, which has the potential to resolve some of the underlying causes of instability in the Kivus. ...

In spite of the promise held by these initiatives, however, the situation in North Kivu has not fundamentally moved forward since January 2008. The province remains deeply insecure and the human rights situation continues to be appalling. Since the signing of the Act of Engagement, the cease-fire has been broken on hundreds of occasions, thousands of women and girls have been raped, hundreds of children recruited into the armed groups, often through abduction, and scores of civilians unlawfully killed. ... The Amani Programme is being vigorously promoted by its National Coordinator, Abb‚ Apollinaire Malu Malu, and his staff, but has not yet been able to deliver tangible results.

...

The UN peacekeeping mission to the DRC, MONUC, is the only force which is currently providing meaningful security for civilians in North Kivu. ... MONUC has made strenuous efforts to fulfil its protection mandate in North Kivu, including by the redeployment to the province of additional peace-keepers, establishing mobile bases and standing combat deployments in insecure areas. However, the force, despite reinforcement, is still relatively thinly spread and its protection and assistance activities are limited ,,,

The Continuing Horror of Rape and Other Forms of Sexual Violence

In North Kivu, members of armed groups and government security forces continue to rape and sexually abuse women and girls, and in a smaller number of cases, men and boys. Infant children and elderly women are among the victims, many of whom have suffered gang rape or have been raped on more than once. Rape has been committed in public and in front of family members, including children. Some women have been abducted and held as sexual slaves. In many cases, sexual abuse and rape appear to be ethnically motivated and/or aimed at terrorizing and demoralizing communities suspected of supporting enemy groups. ...

Complete statistics of the scale of rape in North Kivu do not exist. According to December 2007 UN figures, around 350 rape cases are reported every month in North Kivu, with around a third committed against children under 18. The North Kivu Provincial Commission for the Struggle Against Sexual Violence, however, reported 800 new cases in April 2008 alone, 670 of which were in Rutshuru territory. ... Given the reluctance or inability of many women and girls to come forward to report rape or seek medical care, however, it can be assumed that the actual number of victims is much higher.

...

Despite these multiple legal obligations that bind all parties to the conflict in the DRC to refrain from rape, other forms of sexual violence and sexual slavery and bring any suspected perpetrators to justice, women, girls and in some cases boys and men continue to be subjected to rape and other forms of sexual violence.

Elise is 16 years' old. She told Amnesty International that on 12 February 2008 she was abducted by two junior army (FARDC) officers near Vurundo, in Beni territory. They forced her to a nearby military camp, threatening to kill her if she resisted. She was held at the camp for five days, where she was raped every night, always by the same officer. During the day she was forced to do domestic work. On the fourth day of her captivity, her mother arrived at the camp looking for her. Elise was distraught, however, when her mother was refused entry and turned away by the soldiers. It was only on the fifth day, when her mother returned with a local administrator [chef de quartier], that the soldiers agreed to let her go. Throughout her ordeal, Elise told Amnesty International: "The other soldiers in the camp didn't seem to care or be willing to take responsibility. Only when my mother came with the chef de quartier did they take any notice." Since the rape, Elise suffers persistent headaches and flashbacks. She is receiving medical and psychosocial care from a local non-governmental organization.

...

Marie is a 13-year-old from a village near Bingi, Lubero territory. On 27 January 2008 she was returning home from a friend's house.

I saw a man running towards me. He grabbed my hand and called another man over. They took me to the mayi-mayi camp. One of the men was dressed in military fatigues and the other in civilian clothes. They led me to a hut where the soldier in military clothing raped me. Once he had finished, he fell asleep. I stayed there all night, crouched on the floor. The following day, they let me go. When I arrived home, I told my mother. She took me to hospital. The nurses wrote a letter to the commanders at the camp. They also took me to the camp so that I could show them who the perpetrator was. As punishment, the soldier was whipped in front of me. He was then let go.

Marie now experiences severe headaches, which she tries to alleviate by taking vitamin tablets. She has not seen the man who raped her since the attack, but lives in fear that he will return.

...

Recruitment and Use of Children

In the January Act of Engagement, the armed groups of North and South Kivu committed themselves to "a total and immediate halt ... of all new recruitment", to an immediate "halt to acts of violence, extortion, discrimination and exclusion, of all forms, against civilian populations, particularly women and children, the elderly and disabled" and to a "prohibition of all recruitment and particular promotion of the rights of children in conflict (or post-conflict) zones". ...

At the height of the DRC conflict, around 30,000 children were estimated to be serving with the armed forces and non-state groups party to the conflict throughout the DRC. Under a government and international demobilisation programme, which began in 2005, the majority of these children were released into the care of UNICEF or specialist child protection NGOs and, where possible, reunited with their families. The regular army formally ended the recruitment and use of children in November 2004. ...

This progress has been seriously undermined in North Kivu, however, with disastrous consequences for children. In North Kivu, armed groups continue to use children aged under 18 and the conflict has led to a resurgence in the recruitment of children into fighting groups. Although releases of children from the armed groups still take place in the province, these appear to have been outnumbered by new recruitments of children. One international child protection worker told Amnesty International, "For every two children released, five are taken". Particular targets for recruitment are children who had previously served with armed groups but who had been reunited with their families as part of the national DDR programme. According to one estimate, given to Amnesty International by an international source, of the former child soldiers who had previously been reunited with their families in North Kivu, as many as half may since have been re-recruited by the armed groups.

...

Caught between two sides: state violations against children associated with armed groups

Rostin, a 16-year-old Hutu boy from Masisi territory, suffered at the hands of both CNDP and government forces. In October 2007, he and other children from his village, warned that the CNDP was recruiting children by force from schools, had taken to hiding in the countryside. Rostin recalls: "We built our own shelters in the brush. Our parents brought us food. We made sure that there were never more than five us together. Sometimes we could creep back to the village, but cautiously. We spent two months like that."

As the fighting drew closer, his family fled to an IDP camp at Kirolirwe, an area under CNDP control. In late December, "A group of CNDP soldiers came to the camp. They ordered us: 'Those that are young and have strength, stand up!' About 20 stood up and followed the CNDP soldiers out. Those that didn't stand up were picked out and beaten." Rostin was taken to a farm at Kabati, in Rutshuru, where he underwent one week of military training with around 40 other children before being sent to the frontline. Shortly afterwards, he made his escape and while trying to find his way out of the forest was picked up by FARDC soldiers who, he says, arrested him and beat him badly.

The next day I was taken to T2 [FARDC military intelligence] in Goma and put in a cell. There were seven of us, including three children. We spent around three weeks there. We were fed a handful of haricot beans a day, and given only small amounts of water. They soldiers beat us regularly. When we were hit on one side of the face, we were ordered to offer the other cheek also. At night the CNDP detainees were made to hang from the bars of a small overhead window. When eventually we fell, we dropped on to other detainees sleeping on the floor below. They had been given orders to beat us when we fell.

...

Recruitment, ill-treatment and unlawful killings by armed groups

Seraphin told Amnesty International that he was in the 6th year of secondary school in Kitchanga when he was abducted by the CNDP in mid-2007. "I was at school studying when CNDP soldiers turned up and gathered all the 6th year boys together. They took 12 of us in total aged from 16, and drove us to the training camp at Bwiza. There they put us in a pit in the ground. Some of us tried to get away but we were beaten. I was stabbed in the stomach and tied up." Christophe, who bears the scar of what appears to be a knife wound to his stomach, submitted to the training. Of the 250 people with him in the camp, he estimated that 60 were children, including a small number of girls. "The training was hard. We were fed one plate of maize meal a day, shared between 12 people. Some people died because of a lack of food or because of illness. Other people were killed when they tried to escape, shot in public as an example to us. We were forced to dig holes and bury the bodies, right there beside where they had been killed."

...
Commanders of all armed groups will often deliberately brutalize children, forcing them to commit crimes, including murder and rape, against their will. Where children have committed crimes under duress, the responsibility for these crimes clearly lies with their adult commanders, but such crimes remain a major barrier to community reconciliation and the successful reintegration of demobilised children. ...

Samuel, aged 16, was re-recruited from his home by mayi-mayi forces in August 2007, having previously served with the mayi-mayi for nearly a year in 2006. Samuel told Amnesty International that his unit regularly raped women, killed and looted, often under the influence of alcohol and drugs. He reported that some commanders would withhold food from boys unless they raped a woman or girl. He continued:

Once I killed a deserter. The major knew where this man lived and wanted his weapon back. We went to the man's house and caught him. The older soldiers called me over. They said I had a choice - either slit the man's throat or be killed. I killed the man because I had to save my own life. Afterwards I felt scared.

...

Protecting Women and Children Is Essential to Reviving the Peace Process

The Congolese people can have little faith in a peace process in which the belligerents continue systematically to kill civilians, rape women and girls, and abduct children. ,,, Until there is a basic level of human security where people can go about their daily lives without fear of sexual violence and abduction there will be no peace in the DRC.

...

The prime movers of the insecurity in the Kivus, on both government and armed group sides, are aware of their obligations under international humanitarian law, drawn unceasingly to their attention by the UN as well as international and national human rights and humanitarian organizations. Amnesty International believes that no further amount of mediation or facilitation will significantly advance the cause of peace in North Kivu unless, first, there is an immediate and unequivocal halt to violations and abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law. The priority of the international community must therefore be to convince all armed forces present in the Kivus to abide immediately by international human rights standards or face justice.

The DRC government, with support and assistance of the international community, must for its part make justice a living and convincing reality. This involves the rehabilitation of the civilian court and policing services so that they are capable of properly investigating and prosecuting human rights violations, including especially crimes of sexual violence and crimes against children. ...Amnesty International believes that the Amani Programme should make this one of its core objectives in the search for peace and reconciliation in the Kivus, and that this should be complemented by clear national strategies to address violence against women and children and to tackle impunity. Women's and child protection NGOs and agencies, national and international, should have a central role in the design and implementation of such strategies.

MONUC, too, has a key role to play in protecting women and children and in bringing an end to systematic sexual violence and child recruitment. Ensuring that women and children are a priority in MONUC peacekeeping and civilian protection operation, particularly by patrolling in locations where women and children are most exposed to risk of human rights abuse and through regular consultations between peacekeepers and women's and children's NGOs, will help. But MONUC must also ensure that a clear priority and focus is put on ending impunity for human rights abuse against women and children in its crucial programmes of support to the rehabilitation and reform of the DRC's justice and security sectors. Initiatives such as recent MONUC human rights training to Congolese police in North-Kivu on laws on sexual violence procedures for helping rape survivors and the protection of victims and witnesses are essential and should continue and be expanded. At the political level, too, MONUC should press the government to ensure that women and children's civil society organizations are included at all levels of the Kivu peace process ...

It is also essential for all parties with the support of the international community to protect and encourage the DRC's human rights and civil society activists. These human rights defenders, with limited resources and often under situations of physical threat, work on behalf of the survivors of human rights and humanitarian law abuses and violations with an exceptional and lonely courage. They are usually the first refuge for survivors of rape and other forms of sexual violence and for children in distress, including those who have been forced to take part in the conflict. Amnesty International calls on the DRC government and international community to recognize and support the work of these individuals and organizations, and to provide them with greater protection.


Recent Reports on the Democratic Republic of the Congo

IRIN, report on Enough Project statement, "Save Eastern Peace Process from Collapse"
http://allafrica.com/stories/200810030747.html

Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, latest reports on the Democratic Republic of the Congo
http://tinyurl.com/4xscn2

"Opportunities for Recovery in Northern Katanga, Refugees International, October 8. 2008
http://www.refugeesinternational.org/content/article/detail/10861

Candide au Congo. L'échec annonc‚ de la réforme du secteur de sécurité (RSS) 17/09/2008 by S‚bastien Melmot, Focus stratégique n 9, Paris, Ifri, septembre 2008
http://www.ifri.org/files/Securite_defense/Focus_Candide_Congo.pdf

For an Effective and Credible MONUC (Sept. 29, 2008) and The Goma Agreement: Chronicle of a missed opportunity (Sept. 15, 2008)
http://www.eurac-network.org/web/plaidoyer.php

Global Witness, "Control of Mines by Warring Parties Threatens Peace Efforts in Eastern Congo," September 10, 2008 http://tinyurl.com/4jr6kp

"Congo logging review could lead to more forest destruction, warns Greenpeace" 08 October 2008
http://tinyurl.com/525yyn


AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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